Barbados could receive a batch of “emergency” vaccines for frontline workers and the most vulnerable by the end of this month, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced, while revealing she and two other ministers have already received a jab.
The doses are coming from its order through the global COVAX facility, organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said.
In addition, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) could be getting some assistance through the Africa Medical Supplies platform to source more vaccines, but a decision on that will have to be made in a matter of about two weeks after it is put on the leaders’ agenda next Monday.
The vaccine update came on Thursday evening as Mottley disclosed that she, along with five frontline medical individuals, Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic and Attorney General Dale Marshall received their first jab of two “in the course of the last few days”.
Mottley did not indicate why none of the vaccinations was done publicly, but said the group would receive their second dose “in a few weeks’ time”.
Declaring that Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Jerome Walcott continued to work feverishly to get access to the vaccine from several suppliers, Mottley pointed out that the inoculation expected from the COVAX Facility, which is to be enough for about 20 per cent of the population, would only start with enough for about three per cent of the population with the rest spread out throughout the year.
“Even without that, they have indicated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health that we may get an emergency amount for our frontline workers and for the most vulnerable by the end of January or early February that will allow us to be able to start to bring down the temperature in the country,” she said.
In relation to accessing vaccines through the African Medical Supplies platform, Mottley said: “I received a call yesterday from the coordinator who has in fact, been requested by the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa to lead a group of persons who were then deputed to go and meet with all of the companies manufacturing vaccines to be able to secure a set of purchases for the African continent going forward.”
With the African Union subsequently having secured some 270 million extra doses of vaccine for the continent from three companies, Mottley said: “The call we received yesterday was that the council of heads of governments of Africa who were presiding over this, believe that in this exercise they should carry along their brothers and sister in the Caribbean Community.
“Accordingly, I briefed the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community last night and we will have two weeks to determine if we want to participate. The vaccine and the procurement opportunities will be put on the platform from Monday. We are in a state of heightened negotiations across the board, not just with them, but with others to see how we can literally be able to acquire enough to provide the herd immunity so some level of normalcy can come back to Barbados as soon as possible and the region as soon as possible,” Mottley explained.
She pointed out that it was necessary for Barbados and other regional jurisdictions to have access to enough vaccine for the population, pointing out that “in the absence of a public space that allows for equitable distribution, the difficulty with this virus is that if you don’t allow for all to get it you run the risk that it will continue to play with the global community and not to leave us the way that we expect it to leave us”.
Mottley gave the assurance that authorities here would be engaging members of the public in the coming weeks about the planned vaccination roll-out plan to bring about a level of comfort over the jab.